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Live review: Mumford & Sons at the Palladium

October 19, 2010 |  2:55 pm

Acclaimed young British folk quartet has fans dancing in the aisles.

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Mumford & Sons is not a band in need of guidance. At the Hollywood Palladium on Monday, the young British folk quartet arrived with a fully formed, authentic voice, quoting lines from Steinbeck and Shakespeare, mingling the Anglican and the Appalachian into an excited, organic whole.

Their performance opened virtually a cappella as band members sang to the faint picking of acoustic guitar, then the simple plucking of a bass string, before slowly building into a full stomping rush as leader Marcus Mumford roared of a “Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you / It will set you free.”

The song was “Sigh No More,” the title track from Mumford & Sons’ debut album, released in the U.S. in February, and rightly acclaimed by critics and a fast-growing audience for a folk-rock sound equally delicate and explosive. But not even the album quite captures the full, celebratory effect of Mumford & Sons live.

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That opening song set a stirring template for the entire 75-minute set, with many songs beginning delicately before swelling into a rousing celebration reminiscent of the early Pogues, crafting a warm, communal sound as fitting in the great Hollywood dance hall as it might be in your living room.

At times, keyboardist Ben Lovett could barely be contained behind his instrument, and banjo-player “Country” Winston Marshall early on frog-hopped between riffs to create a hard, stomping beat. And yet it was some of the quieter moments that cut the deepest, with Mumford offering a forlorn vocal of desire and guilt on “White Blank Page” as he strummed an acoustic guitar.

The band’s four voices (including bassist Ted Dwane) harmonized from the shadows for “Timshel,” sounding like a more muscular Fleet Foxes and giving comfort with a kind of prayer: “Death is at your doorstep / And it will steal your innocence / But it will not steal your substance.”

As Mumford slashed at his guitar, the band offered its joyful, spiritual signature song “Little Lion Man,” sending fans hopping and dancing in the sold-out venue.

While still a new act, Mumford & Sons are already enjoying “the pleasure of touring your massive country” for the forth time, Mumford said, with earlier local shows at the Hotel Café, Troubadour and the Fonda Theater. This time the band brought a two-man horn section of trumpet and trombone for a brassy accent on a handful of songs.

They also delivered new material that has been road-tested as part of the Mumford live repertoire for months, beginning with the angelic vocal harmonies of Lovett and Mumford on “Nothing Is Written.”
The night ended with “The Cave,” another radio hit that is among the band’s most immediate and recognizable tunes, but the encore began with a few moments that cut right to the essence of Mumford & Sons.

The band stepped away from its amps and microphones and asked fans to come closer as the four players began to perform an acoustic and truly unplugged “Sister.” The crowd pushed forward and listened quietly to the words of family heartbreak, and heard a young band still growing as players, and as comfortable with pain as in ecstasy.

-- Steve Appleford

Photos: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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